Britain’s brewers have warned The Guardian that the weak pound could threaten the country’s craft beer industry, as the Brexit vote’s impact on the price of sterling causes a spike in the cost of imported ingredients and equipment.
Experiencing something of a craft beer renaissance over the past few years, it’s estimated that there are around 1,700 active breweries in the UK with roughly 200 new breweries opening every year.
The devalued pound – a side-effect of the country’s 2016 EU referendum – has particularly impacted the cost of importing good quality hops, malt and yeast. Unlike multinational beer producers which spend relatively little on ingredients, craft producers spend serious time and money on sourcing the best ingredients – part of their products’ value and USP.
Andrew Paterson, Head Brewer at Dark Star Brewing, points to the rising cost of “steel tanks, kegs, yeast manufactured in Holland, anything that’s imported”, saying “we’re not going to compromise on quality so it’s an ongoing cost.”
Some independent beers already cost more than £5 a pint, leaving small-scale brewers worried that they will be priced out of the market.
The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), which represents 850 breweries in the UK, is hopeful that the quality of British craft beer will be enough to convince drinkers to pay more for their pint.
“It is important that beer drinkers understand the challenges that face Britain’s independent brewers in terms of rising costs but also the fundamental truth that craft beers rely heavily on quality, often imported ingredients. Independent brewers use these quality ingredients purely for their flavour, which means consumers are getting very good value for money when they choose an independent craft beer,” said Managing Director of SIBA, Mike Benner.
However, the economic situation could leave farmers feeling positive as beer producers start to switch to British-grown ingredients, leading to an increase in demand for their hops – the price of which was already on the rise before the EU vote – and barley.